Author Archives: Jess Zafarris

About Jess Zafarris

Jess Zafarris is the Director of Content Strategy and Online Content for Writer’s Digest and ScriptMag. Her eight years of experience in digital and print content direction includes such roles as editor-in-chief of HOW design magazine and online content director of HOW and PRINT, as well as writing for the Denver Business Journal, ABC News, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. She spends much of her spare time researching curious word histories and writing about them at Follow her at @jesszafarris or @uselessety on Twitter, and sign up for her free weekly Writer's Digest Newsletter.

Thesaurus Abuse

Visit a thesaurus website or grab a thesaurus from your book shelf if you have one. Search or flip through until you find five preposterously verbose, bombastic, grandiloquent alternatives for everyday words. Using all five terms, write a scene about a character who writes "purple prose" or speaks in overly flowery...

Puzzles for Writers: 3 Quotable Cryptograms

In the January 2019 issue of Writer's Digest, we included a Cryptogram (#2 below) in our Potpourri for the Pen column. Solve it, plus two additional cryptograms, shown below, to discover writing wisdom by famous writers from past issues of Writer’s Digest magazine.

The Color of Ideas

Choose one to three colors from the color associations chart. Note the different meanings. Create a character or place associated with each color. Profile the character(s) or setting(s), or write a scene about them.

Top Websites for Writers: 10 Online Writing Communities

Each year we scour the web for our annual 101 Best Websites for Writers, a comprehensive collection of online resources for writers. This selection represents our 2018 picks for the top online writing communities. These resources will provide you with great tips, advice and the support of other writers.

Two Truths and a Lie

Ask a friend to tell you two truths and a lie about themselves. Without asking which one is false, write a short scene about a character for whom all three statements are true.

Jack-O-Lantern of the Soul

You (or a character) have managed to carve a Jack-O-Lantern that expresses the very essence of your identity and personality with startling accuracy. What is it, and how do your family/ friends react when they see it?

The Reaper Knocks

There's a thunderous knock at the door. You open it to find an improbably tall, black-robed figure towering over you with a scythe in one bony hand. The figure peers at you for a long moment, then looks down at a clipboard in its other hand. Then back at you. Then...

Lost Dog

The family dog has been missing for weeks, and everyone is devastated (except that one family member who was just never a dog person, of course). Suddenly, the dog returns, showing up out of nowhere. (Most of) the family rejoices. But as time goes by, it becomes clear that something isn't...

Did You Hear That?

As you likely know, the term onomatopoeia refers to words that imitate sounds associated with actions and objects. Incorporate as many onomatopoetic words into a story or scene as you can.

The Athlete

Think of an athlete, coach or other sporting-type person you've met before. Using this person as a springboard, identify the following qualities about them and then incorporate these qualities into a character in a story: physical body type, style of walking, usual outfit, reaction under stress, non-athletic passion.

A Roll of the Dice

In the spirit of taking chances, roll two six-sided dice. Whatever number comes up, write down the first word you can think of with that many letters. Repeat six times. Incorporate these six words into a story or scene and see where it takes you.